(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Timothy Geigner

Filed Under:
astroturfing, taiwan

htc, samsung

Taiwan Fines Samsung For Astroturfing

from the why-not-just-compete? dept

At some point companies and organizations are going to have to learn that astroturfing is going to accomplish absolutely nothing positive and almost certainly a whole lot of negative. The practice of faking support through BS internet comments is every bit as petty and stupid as it sounds, resulting in these folks either looking really silly or downright hypocritical. That said, it's one thing to astroturf for what typically amounts to a crappy cause, but it's quite another level of dumb when you do it to try to influence consumer behavior purely as a business practice.

For instance, take Samsung, which has been the king of the mobile phone market for the past few years. It's now been fined by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) for splashing fake comments all over the internet demeaning HTC phones while favoring its own.

In a notice on its website, the consumer protection body said that Samsung had organized an Internet campaign in violation of fair trade rules to praise Samsung smartphones while slamming those of HTC. The FTC set Samsung's fine at New Taiwan dollars 10 million ($340,000). It also leveled smaller fines on two Taiwanese trading companies it said were responsible for mounting the Internet campaign.
It should be noted that this isn't the first time Samsung has been fined for misleading behavior, having faced FTC sanctions mere months ago over the way they mislead consumers about some of the camera functions on their phones. Now, $340k may not seem like that big a deal, and it probably isn't, but you and any potential Samsung partners should be looking at this as a symptom, not the disease.

Even as Samsung has been leading the market lately, this sends a clear message to anyone paying attention that Samsung doesn't think it can actually compete fairly in the marketplace. The company apparently believes they're best bet is to generate positive outlook on their phones by faking grassroot support as opposed to actually earning it. That's a problem in and of itself, but add to it a drop in confidence and favorability now that the astroturfing campaign has been exposed and the corporate-meltdown pump has been primed. Samsung may want to remind itself of the fate of Nokia -- another company that was once at the top of the heap in mobile phones, before it became complacent on innovation and learned how quickly a market can move in a different direction.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), Oct 30th, 2013 @ 4:07am

    Seems inevitable that the cycle will repeat. Company gets to the top through innovation, hits rock bottom due to shaddy practices. What's amusing is that those companies actually have the money to invest in a R&D to keep ahead but they'd rather take the easy profits way almost every time. I wonder, what's an example of company that didn't fall for that profits-in-the-short-term-above-all?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2013 @ 5:57am

    "The company apparently believes they're best bet is to "


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 30th, 2013 @ 7:01am

    Congrats, Timmy! A piece so trivial that in 12 hours,

    the only comment was to point out the typo (still not corrected as I write). You're making trivia into an art form.

    Techdirt. Dumpster-diving to recycle "news."


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Pragmatic, Oct 30th, 2013 @ 7:46am

    Re: Congrats, Timmy! A piece so trivial that in 12 hours,

    Shut up, Cathy. Judging by your (often crazy) comments, you can't do any better.

    Why are you even here? You're not achieving anything; your so-called "purposes" are not being served and you've got no sympathy among us.

    Meanwhile, Tim has brought to our attention that astroturfing can get you into trouble if you use it as a marketing tool because it creates a false perception in the market by pretending your item is popular, etc., when it's not. If enough of these incidents are reported on, perhaps the practice will stop.

    Ah, who am I kidding? It'll evolve. However, it does you good to know which companies are so bad (or desperate) they're resorting to lying and cheating to popularize their products. Now we know which ones to be skeptical of.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    bob, Oct 30th, 2013 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Congrats, Timmy! A piece so trivial that in 12 hours,

    just because they use underhanded tactics doesn't mean they're not doing well or are unpopular. they are arguably one of the top 2 phone makers at the moment. even if they are #1, they would still do things like this to try to widen the gap. it's silly to think these tactics are only undertaken by those who are otherwise failing.
    Samsung also doesn't seem to be suffering from complacency in the new tech department. so this comment seems to be somewhat irrelevant.
    These underhanded tactics are arguably business valid.. where if you gain 10% favorability through them, then lose 3% when it's discovered (a lot of people really don't follow up on this stuff).
    it's like a politician saying something they know is false, because that message will reach more people than the fact checkers note that comes out 2 days later.
    I'm not saying it's a good thing, I'm just saying it's a valid tactic that often succeeds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Pragmatic, Oct 30th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Congrats, Timmy! A piece so trivial that in 12 hours,

    Hmmm... "valid tactic?" Oft-used, maybe, but let's face it, they're cheating. Besides, the fact that they got fined for it means that it's not actually valid in the eyes of the law.

    Yes, it succeeds, but then, if the product is that good, why use it? I dislike astroturfing as a rule because it can and often does validate all kinds of nonsense to the credulous public, the Stop Kony campaign being a classic example. Don't get me started on the Tea Party.

    The trouble with astroturfing is it's not genuine or organic, it's just attempting to drag people along with what they believe is "the crowd" but is really just a particularly underhanded marketing campaign. All the more reason to think for yourself and not be tempted to follow the herd.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    bob, Oct 30th, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Congrats, Timmy! A piece so trivial that in 12 hours,

    yes, I used the word underhanded as well.
    "valid" in that it works, which you also admit to.
    And as long as the fines are negligible, it'll remain a valid tactic.
    I'm not pro underhanded anything, but whether it's apple using slave labor or whatever the cause of the day is, it's more of just a fact of business and politics, which will remain to be so until the return is no longer greater than the investment.
    it's like the US spying on foreign leaders and companies.. the only 'news' is that someone got caught.. it's not news that it's being done.

    yes, it should still be pointed out and tabs kept. but it's very much a 'meh' point until some actual action is taken against it. 1/3 of a mill fine is a bit of a 'meh' action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Ninja (profile), Oct 30th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Re: Congrats, Timmy! A piece so trivial that in 12 hours,

    Yeah, you bet it. Look at the MPAA site, no comments ever there. Nobody must read it too. I mean, what idiot reads an article and doesn't comment! You are right, techdirt is some sort of mausoleum where only 5-60 grifters dwell (I'm assuming that to be the average comments per article).

    Are you so pathetically desperate to attack this site that you are gonna resort to this type of comment? Want a cat so you can take care of its 7 lives and just get lost from here?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    wakka wakka, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 12:02am

    how the heck?

    How is it that some of these guys are still in business. They even say that they are operating within the legal requirements? Like these guys http://foshilla.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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